Humans have hunted for sustenance, clothing, and survival since the beginning of time. It’s an essential part of our DNA even though the tools we’ve used have changed. Pointed sticks gave way to spears and then guns, and hunting became less a necessity and more a recreation. And as a modern hunter, the amount of sophisticated tools you have at your fingertips are astonishing. One of the most advanced options you’ll find is the trail camera.
These cool cameras are a great way to identify your prospective prey out in the wild, but if you haven’t shopped for one before, you can easily get conned. That’s why we’ve put together this best trail camera list. We offer 10 reviews for the best camera models as well as shopping advice.
- 10 Best Trail Cameras
- 1. Campark 14MP Game Trail Camera
- 2. Bushnell 16MP Trophy Cam HD Essential E3 Trail Camera
- 3. APEMAN 12MP Game&Hunting Trail Camera
- 4. Foxelli 14MP Waterproof Trail Camera
- 5. Stealth Cam G42NG No-Glow Trail Game Camera
- 6. Victure Trail 12MP Game Camera Hunting Trap Cameras
- 7. Meidase 16MP Trail Camera
- 8. TOGUARD 14MP Trail Camera
- 9. Crenova 20MP Hunting Trail Camera
- 10. Browning Strike Force Trail Camera
- Trail Cameras Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Trail Cameras
1. Campark 14MP Game Trail Camera
Campark deals exclusively in cameras meant to be used in the great outdoors, and they consistently deliver some of the best trail cameras around. This model is effective while still being affordable, rocking a camouflage cover (available in two variants) that blends in well with the surroundings and an expansive 120 degree field of view that can provide you with a meaningful perspective on any wildlife that passes through whether it's day or night.
And while this trail camera only offers black and white night vision, it provides some of the best resolution in its price range. That's true for both the stills and video. A belt and tree mount are also included so you can more easily set this wildlife camera up, and the quality of the infrared sensors allows you to get more juice out of the included batteries for longer performance.
2. Bushnell 16MP Trophy Cam HD Essential E3 Trail Camera
The Trophy Cam by Bushnell looks like something out of a military pulp novel, but it has a performance that can match its rugged demeanor, and it's currently discounted on Amazon to almost half its normal price. But this is a $200 trail camera through and through and easily one of the best in its class. A one second recovery time allows it to catch more stills in a very short amount of time, and while the video leaves a little to be desired, the image quality is some of the best around.
There are also some cool features that aren't very common on the market. Every image can be tagged with GPS, temperature, moon phase, time, and date metrics so that you can better document your hunting expeditions. And with a battery life of one year, you can consistently capture footage throughout the seasons.
3. APEMAN 12MP Game&Hunting Trail Camera
If GoPro has a single worthy competitor in the action camera market, it's Apeman, and the same qualities that make for the best action cameras are also the best qualities for a trail camera. This 12MP trail camera is incredibly resistant to both rain and dust, and it comes with 26 dedicated LEDs for better detection of anything within its field of view. Nighttime shooting is accentuated by the presence of a flash that works at a distance of up to 20 meters.
Tagging is included for a variety of different metrics that include temperature, moon phase, and pressure, and you can even view your recordings in real time. This scouting camera also offer support for a time lapse mode. In short, you're sacrificing a modest bit of visual fidelity for some of the best features around.
4. Foxelli 14MP Waterproof Trail Camera
This trail camera by Foxelli boasts incredibly easy setup. It runs on either four or eight AA batteries and includes a slot for an SD card of up to 32 gigabytes, so you can comfortably set it up and forget this trail camera until you need it. A tree strap is included, and it can last up to eight months on a single battery charge. The menu interface may be simplistic, but it's also easy to use even if this is your first time working with a trail cam.
The camera can trigger in a half second, though the settings here are fully adjustable so you can make it match your specific needs. 42 low glow IR sensors provide you with stunning night time footage without running the risk of spooking your prospective prey, and it offers one of the best field of views for any trail camera.
5. Stealth Cam G42NG No-Glow Trail Game Camera
The Stealth Cam captures all the fundamentals you'd want from a trail camera and then some, all for a price of right around $100. If you're a customer that wants to check the presence of wildlife without detection, you'll love the fact that this trail camera comes with no glow lighting to reduce the risk of being spotted. The trigger speed comes in at less than half a second and supports image burst mode for the capture of more detailed footage.
The viewing screen is large and easy to navigate, and it comes with a number of pre-programmed shooting modes for both videos and stills, although you can also program your own customized settings in there. It can also shoot up to three minutes of HD videos at a time, and unlike many other trail cameras, it even records audio.
6. Victure Trail 12MP Game Camera Hunting Trap Cameras
Victure has produced one of the most inexpensive trail cameras on the market. It's not going to meet the standards of every trail camera on our list, but it offers a surprising amount of value for its $50 price tag. This entry level trail camera is easy to use even if it's your first time thanks to the thoughtfully designed interface, and it offers reliable photos and videos even in dark conditions thanks to the low glow infrared sensors.
It provides an average trigger speed of half a second as well as the ability to shoot three continuous pictures in a single burst. It also offers an above average for its price max resolution of 1080p for videos. The LCD screen is bright, expressive, and easy to read, and this trail camera can actually record sound in an entire 360 degree radius.
7. Meidase 16MP Trail Camera
It's frankly astonishing how much Meidase has managed to pack in their trail camera for right around $50. The video and image resolution are both above average, but that's the case for the specs practically across the board. The no glow infrared lighting ensures that your camera will be harder to spot even in the dark, and the 0.2 second quick trigger time is some of the best we've found in a trail camera anywhere.
It also offers a respectable detection range of 65 feet in the dark. You can choose from either photo, video, or dual modes, and the IP66 rating is incredibly tough - not just for a budget trail camera but for the overall market. A wealth of features are present as well - including time lapse and loop recording. Internal storage supports up to a 32 GB SD card, and extra security is available via password protection.
8. TOGUARD 14MP Trail Camera
The value you get out of what you pay for on this TOGUARD camera is practically out of this world. The 14 MP still camera and 1080p video performance are significantly above standard for a $50 camera, and it offers an industry leading 120 degree field of vision for better documenting prey even when it's on the range of the camera's periphery. The 0.5 second trigger time isn't the best you'll find anywhere, but it's certainly no slouch.
And the battery life is strong here too. In standby mode, it can last for up to eight months on just one set of batteries. The low glow sensors are going to make this camera incredibly hard for prey to spot during the night or the day, and it sports a detection range of 75 feet. It may not be loaded down with features, but it's a practical meat and potatoes model.
9. Crenova 20MP Hunting Trail Camera
The Crenova offers image resolution that's above and beyond most trail cameras you'll find today, and it manages to accomplish that while keeping the price well underneath $100. Combine that with a perspective of 120 degrees and a blindingly quick quarter second trigger speed, and you're left with a camera that will get the footage you need in practically any situation you can imagine. It also sports the best waterproof rating you'll find in any cam available today.
There are some really cool sharing functions here as well. This camera can save footage of up to 64 GB, more than enough even if it takes you a while to make it out to the cam's location. But it also can be plugged directly into the TV so you can share your captured footage with friends and family. The inclusion of an optional external power source lets it run into perpetuity.
10. Browning Strike Force Trail Camera
The Browning Strike Force HD camera is one of the most secure models on the market. The sturdy and waterproofed frame is resistant not just to the elements but from assaults by curious wildlife as well, but the intense camouflage it's wrapped in does a good job of hiding it from animals in its own right. It can trigger in less than half a second, and it sports a 0.8 second recovery time that's ideal when in largely populated outdoor environments.
You can set the picture delay for those from anywhere between 5 seconds and a full hour, and it can capture eight rapid fire shots in the blink of an eye. The "Zero Blur" technology it uses is probably the most notable feature here - reducing the motion in photos to produce clear and crisp results. It even includes an external power source in addition to its battery bank.
Trail Cameras Buyer’s Guide
While trail cameras are most often used by hunters, they serve a variety of different purposes. Their inexpensive design and the wealth of features built specifically to the needs of the open wild makes them a popular choice for conservationists, nature researchers, and wildlife photographers alike. They’re even used by some in the security community to create surveillance systems that can go beyond the front door.
The reviews above cover some of the most highest rating wildlife cameras we’ve found in 2020, but if you want to shop like an expert, you’re in the right place. Our guide below will get into detail about the features and specs that matter most when shopping for the best trail camera. We discuss all the essentials. After that, we’ll quickly address some of the customer questions that arise about trail cameras.
What a Trail Camera Needs
Before we get into the specs, let’s talk briefly about what the purpose of a trail camera is. A trail camera exists as a way to capture photos and videos of everything in the surroundings, and it’s intended to be set up and left behind for days, weeks, or months at a time. That means that you’ll need resolution for your photos and videos that can adequately capture the environment as well as good waterproofing and long battery life to withstand the extremes of outdoor weather.
Apart from that, a trail camera is functionally pretty similar to a security camera. Both need the ability for quick detection of animals or people in the field of view without drawing attention to themselves. And perhaps most importantly, they need to be able to record pictures and videos decently even in the dark. Now that you know what to look for, let’s break down these specs and features into greater detail.
Any camera that offers still photography is going to come with a resolution rated in megapixels. When you take a picture, it doesn’t simply print a complete reproduction of what you could see through the camera’s lens. Instead, it prints out the image dot by dot, usually too small to be recognized by the human eye. But the amount of megapixels that can be captured in photos is the major factor in image quality. Even if you can’t check the specific pixels by eye, a lower rated trail camera will provide blurrier and blockier photos.
Each megapixel counts for a million pixels, so a 12 megapixel camera can pack 12,000,000 pixels into photos. And while the resolution of photos should be a serious factor when looking fora trail camera, it doesn’t need to be the only one. Trail cameras are more focused on detecting prey than they are capturing professional level photography, and high resolution images are going to be significantly more important if you’re a professional photographer than if you’re an average customer looking for a better way to hunt deer in the dark or keep your property protected in the dark.
You need to be careful to not just look at megapixels alone if you want the best detection and be confident in capturing the best photos possible. Many manufacturers stuff a lot of megapixels into their camera because they recognize that it’s an easily identifiable metric that can boost the credibility of their trail camera but they make use of lower quality sensors that greatly limit the resolution quality of the pictures they produce. This allows them to keep their prices for trail cameras low, but it’s a deceptive practice that produces lower quality hunting photos than the resolution alone might suggest.
Video resolution is similar to the resolution for pictures in the grand scheme of things, but the way it’s measured can be a bit more complicated. When you’re trying to find the image resolution of a trail camera, the calculations are easy. A 20 megapixel camera will offer double the resolution of a 10 megapixel camera. Resolution for videos, in contrast, are measured according to the horizontal pixels multiplied by the vertical pixels.
That means that what might appear on the surface to be simply double the video resolution is actually four times that. 4K video, at 3840 x 2160 pixels, is actually four times the resolution of 1080p at 1920 x 1080 pixels. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend too much time fretting over the quality of your video. A trail camera isn’t intended to capture professional footage, so there are few that actually offer 4K footage.
Instead, you’ll find that almost every trail camera offers either 1080p or the lesser 720p footage. Either should be fine for hunting deer or other wild game, but if you’re interested in identifying specific breeds, especially in the dark, 1080p might be the preferential choice for video recording from a trail camera.
Sensor Type and Quality
If you’re using your camera for hunting, you’re going to be dealing with game that only comes out in the dark, so having a solid level of night vision built into your camera is going to be important. Trail cameras include either an incandescent flash, infrared sensors, or both. Flash performs great in shadows, but it projects a bright light at night that affects image quality while also potentially spooking the game you’re hunting.
Most of the trail cameras on our list use infrared sensors, and we consider these to be the best option for capturing pictures and video. Wherever you strap your camera, you can count on it to not spook the wildlife. The big downside is that infrared sensors can only record black and white footage at night, while traditional flashes can record in the dark in full cover. Most trail cameras with infrared are going to offer either low glow or no glow LEDs. While low glow models do a much better job of hiding their presence from surrounding creatures, they still give off some light. A no glow model is going to be practically invisible to anyone or anything around the camera.
The amount of infrared sensors can also have a dramatic performance on how well a camera performs. The more infrared sensors a camera has, the easier time it’s going to have detecting movement in the area. While some manufacturers don’t mention how many sensors are built in to their products, we’ve listed the number of sensors that are packed into each camera where relevant.
For the most part, we recommend an infrared camera if you’re looking for a trail cam that can perform well at night. A traditional flash camera is preferable to an infrared camera during the day and in light shadows where the presence of the flash is less likely to be spotted by prey.
Detection Range and Field of View
A trail camera may be able to capture beautiful footage due to the high resolution of its pictures and video, but it won’t do you much good if it can’t tell when there’s a deer in the vicinity. That’s where the motion detectors and range of a trail camera come into play.
The field of view of a trail camera refers to the lens it uses. If you have any familiarity with photography, you recognize that the closer a lens is to the sensor, the wider field of view that it can capture footage in. A wide field of view is critical for security cameras, but it’s less important if you’re strategically positioning a trail camera over the most common pass through areas of wildlife. A 120 degree range is the best you’ll find, with some trail cams going as low as 30 degrees. Whether you’re using this as a hunting or a security camera, consider what area you need to have covered and be strategic with your placement to give you the best field of view.
Every trail camera comes with a detection circuit built in, and there are two considerations to keep in mind here. The range will tell you how far it can record footage, and this is another situation that’s predicated on your environment. In densely wooded areas, detection range is going to be less important because there may be trees or other foliage blocking the way. Prioritize detection range based off of your circumstances. Bear in mind that detection range tends to shrink when operating a trail camera in the dark.
The other key factor for hunting is the trigger speeds. A normal trail camera will provide you with a trigger speed of around half a second. This tells you how long it takes for the trail camera to recognize movement and capture a shot. If you’re hunting fast moving prey, this can be a critical factor in getting the security footage you need. Some of the better models offer roughly half the average detection speed.
If you’re looking to set up a trail camera for the first time, figuring out the right position to place it in can be tricky. If you’re using it as a security camera, you’ll want to position the camera where it gives you the best field of view to capture intruders, but it’s more complicated when trying to set up a hunting camera. You want to make sure that it’s aligned where it can capture game where they’re most likely to pass by, but you also need to make sure that it’s positioned in a way that it’s least likely to get noticed by your hunting prey.
Most trail cameras are camouflaged to facilitate setup, but that only goes half the distance. We recommend asking locals or fellow hunting enthusiasts about a good place to mount your camera. Many models of scouting camera come with a strap to make the process easier. You’ll want to make sure that your hunting camera is secured to a sturdy tree for better security in the case of a storm. Many models come with a dedicated strap or even a mounting system to help with this.
You want to avoid mounting your security or hunting camera at eye level for better security from thieves. Putting it well above eye level is a great option because it allows you to get an expansive view of your surroundings, but it can sometimes be tricky to take down when you need it. Your hunting camera will be easier to access if it’s positioned at ground level, but that’s a riskier security venture. That means making sure that the hunting camera is properly camouflaged by brush and foliage while also ensuring that the camera isn’t blocked by the surrounding flora. The last thing you want is to have your memory card overcome with pictures of shrubbery.
Not every trail camera comes with a screen built in, but we think it’s practically an essential feature if you plan on using your camera for hunting. Finding the perfect position to mount your camera can be tricky, but it’s made far easier if you’re able to see exactly where it’s pointing. The bigger the screen, the better, and you’ll find color screens especially useful when trying to first mount your camera or check in on the pictures produced.
How easy the interface is to interact with is also an important variable here. Trail cams may be fundamentally pretty simple gadgets, but many of them come with advanced modes and settings that you can use to customize your experience. You want to find a navigational interface with easy to understand buttons and programming options. Especially convenient is the presence of preset modes that allow you to complete the setup process without a lot of effort. An intuitive interface is especially important if you’re looking at a camera with a robust feature set.
How often do you plan on visiting your trail camera to pick up footage? That’s going to have the biggest impact on how important the battery life is for your trail camera. But regardless of the trail camera you pick, all of them are designed to provide months of footage for you. That said, these can vary from anywhere between six months to over a year, so if you find yourself checking in irregularly, investing in a model with a more substantial battery life can be a huge boon.
For the most part, a trail camera is going to make use of pretty standard batteries. AA or AAA batteries are the most common, and some models allow you to pack in more batteries for a longer battery life. Keep in mind that the battery life of a trail camera can vary somewhat depending on how much footage it takes. The listed battery life for models typically assumes that the camera spends most of its time in standby mode, so if yo put your trail camera in an environment with a lot of traffic from local wildlife, you may need to adjust your expectations accordingly (or change the settings to be less sensitive to hunting triggers).
Almost every hunting camera you’ll find makes use of traditional batteries, but some also offer rechargeable batteries. These allow you to not have to worry about purchasing new batteries, and that can be a big deal if you’re looking to outfit the woods around your hunting grounds with a small army of trail cameras, but the replacement rate is so low that it shouldn’t be a big deal for the average customer.
Trail cameras are designed to detect the presence of wildlife or potential intruders in the great outdoors, and they’re built to last months at a time on a single set of batteries, and that means that it’s a near certainty your trail camera is going to come in contact with rain, dust, and other detritus. That means that it needs an even more durable casing than what a customer would need in an action camera. Every trail camera is going to come with waterproofing, but the top of the line units can withstand just about anything.
Fortunately for the customer, almost every trail camera you’ll find is rated according to the IPX system. This rating system determines the level of both dust proofing and waterproofing present in the trail camera. The IPX rating is followed by two numbers and sometimes a third letter designating special features. The first number is a rating for protection against solid objects, while the second is a rating for the waterproofing. We’ll quickly summarize them below, but we’ll stick to the rating levels that are going to be powerful enough for the needs of a wildlife camera. If one of the variables for your trail camera has an X in place of a number, that means it offers no protection or isn’t rated.
- A trail camera rated at IPX4 is resistant to splashes but not constant exposure to rain. It’s the bare minimum you should look for in a camera for the trail.
- Trail cameras rated at IPX5 can resist sustained spray by a hose and are perfect for a customer looking to leave their trail camera out in rainy environments.
- A rating of IPX6 denotes that the trail camera can sustain a more intensive exposure of consistent spray, and it’s the perfect choice in environments prone to persistent and massive storms.
- A trail camera rated at IPX7 can be submerged fully in water without affecting its quality.
Anything rated at less than IPX4 is going to be too little for most environments, and IPX4 should only be used in dry environments. Anything rated higher than IPX7 will be more durable than what the average customer is going to need.
- Trail cameras with an IP4 rating can keep out ants and other larger bugs.
- A trail camera rated at IP5 is protected from dust but not entirely resistant to it.
- If a trail camera has a rating of IP6, it’s completely sealed against dust in any quantity.
Protection from solid objects isn’t going to be as important as waterproofing, but it can be one of the more useful features to keep an eye out for if you’re a customer that’s putting your trail camera somewhere with deer or other especially aggressive wildlife.
If you’re only planning on using your camera while you’re out on a trail, a traditional model is probably going to work just fine. But if you’re looking to beef up the security on your property or if you find yourself hunting on land that’s far away from where you live, you should investing in wireless cellular trail cameras.
Cellular trail cameras use a wireless transmitter that broadcasts over the cellular networks that we all use for our phones. That means that they can send footage from the camera directly to your cellular phone. This wireless capability makes them great for regularly checking in on the habits of local wildlife and getting a better understanding of migration and foraging patterns, but it’s going to cost you a bit more. A wireless cellular camera tends to cost significantly more than a more traditional camera, although they’re functionally similar apart from the wireless options.
Despite that, they can be a very convenient choice for avid hunters. Many include a number of advanced functions that allow you to set protocol for when it will send photos over your cellular wireless network, so you don’t have to worry about getting flooded with images. And a number of cellular wireless models can be accessed either via text or your browser. While we’ve focused mainly on traditional trail camera models on our list, keep your eyes peeled for a guide devoted to these beefier options in the near future.
While a lot of specs can be broken down in concrete and numerical terms, there’s a whole host of features that many of the better trail cameras include that aren’t quite so cut and dry. It would be impossible to break down all the available functions, but we’ll cover some of the most important ones below.
- Wildlife can be skittish, and they aren’t going to stop to say cheese, and that makes burst mode a great choice. When burst mode is enabled, your cam will take multiple pictures in rapid succession, increasing the chances that you’ll get a great shot even among the most nervous animals.
- Cameras that place a date and time tag on their footage are critical if you’re looking to understand the habits of local wildlife, but many models go a step beyond. Temperature, pressure, and moon phase tags are a common choice for inclusion in these types of cameras, and they can give smart hunters or conservationists a far more in depth understanding of the local landscape.
- GPS tagging is something you should consider if you’re using multiple wireless cameras to track potential prey. You can spend less time sorting out which camera is where and more easily pinpoint the foraging patterns of the prey you’re hunting for.
- If you position this type of camera in a crowded area, there’s a good chance that you’re going to capture a whole lot of meaningless footage. That’s especially true if you have your camera operating on very low sensitivity settings. Time lapse can help with that. It speeds up the rate of your recorded videos so that you can identify the important moments without having to sort through hours of footage.
- Most trail cameras offer local storage by inserting an SD or micro SD card, but they can vary in how much space they can hold. 4 GB is not going to be much if you use high sensitivity settings and visit your hunting site regularly. More is obviously better in this regard, but it may be unnecessary depending on your needs.
- Motion freeze is a feature that uses a shutter to minimize the amount of light that fills the camera sensor and thus reduces the risk of blurred images. When dealing with elusive prey, this is a rock solid feature to look for.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Game Camera Under $100?
The Stealth Cam G42NG is a truly impressive trail camera that pushes right against the $100 price ceiling. It’s not the cheapest trail camera available (we have a few trail camera listings for around $50), but it’s one of the most silent trail cameras we’ve found, and it offers great camouflage when placed out in the wild.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Trail Camera?
Photo and video resolution are important, but you should pay just as much attention to the range of detection. This will allow yo u to capture images and videos even if a deer is far away from the camera itself. Depending on the environment where you’re setting up your trail camera, waterproofing and dustproofing should also be a top priority.
What Are the Best Inexpensive Game Cameras?
If you want the cheapest model that just offers the basic features, we recommend the incredibly budget priced Venture trail camera. For just a slight increase in price, you can check out the $70 Campark model. It offers great videos and image quality that makes it perfect for hunting and packs in some cool additional features as well.
Whether you’re looking for a way to identify potential threats to your livestock, go hunting for wild animals, or simply check in on the security of your household, a trail camera is always a great choice. Trail cameras are more durable than traditional security cameras and can last a good long time. We hope you find what you’re looking for, and if you want customer oriented security cameras, we recommend you check out our best security cameras for 2020.